A watered-down bathroom bill is one big step closer to law in Texas.
The Texas House just passed a bill that would prohibit K-12 transgender students from using the bathroom that matches the gender they identify with.
The bill is weaker than a version that passed the Senate, which would prohibit all transgender Texans from using the bathroom of their choice in all public buildings, not just public schools, like courthouses and universities.
It's considered a victory for Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and his conservative agenda.
The House version would accommodate transgender students, for example, by allowing them to use a teacher’s bathroom.
Rep.Jason Villalba, a Republican from Dallas, says the bill offers protection to all kids who feel different.
“Not just those who identify as the opposite sex but those who might have surgical scars that make them uncomfortable," he said. "Those that might have physical defects that make them uncomfortable to use the same facility."
The Democratic minority fought back against Republican efforts to rebrand the debate.
“Let’s be very clear here, this is the bathroom bill,” said Rep. Joe Moody, a Democrat from El Paso. “And the bathroom bill is an attack on transgender people. Some people don’t want to admit that. That’s because they are ashamed. And make no mistake about it, this is shameful."
At the heart of the matter are kids like 10-year old Trevor Baize, who is transitioning from female to male. In August, he spoke with anchor Alisha Laventure.
“I was angry that I didn’t get to use the boy’s bathroom but I was happy that they let me use the teacher’s bathroom instead of making me use the girl’s bathroom,” Baize said about going to school as a boy for the first time.
“How did it make you feel to use the girl’s bathroom?” Laventure asked.
“Embarrassed, scared, nervous. I wouldn’t want anyone seeing me this way,” Baize said.
Ross Ramsey, with the Texas Tribune, says this vote is big victory for Lt. Governor Dan Patrick. The House had been reluctant to take this issue up until Patrick threatened to haul lawmakers into a special session.
“It’s not exactly the bill Dan Patrick and other conservatives wanted but it’s close to their bill and it looked like they wouldn’t get anything at all,” Patrick said.
“Sometimes you have to move an inch at a time instead of a foot at a time. But this is certainly movement in their direction,” he added.
It’s not law yet. The House and Senate have passed very different versions of this bill and will need to work on a compromise this week.